Battlefield Heroes

By Jim Rossignol on January 21st, 2008 at 4:35 pm.

No screenshots yet, unfortunately

And so the legacy of Team Fortress 2 begins to unfold… EA have announced a free to play Battlefield game with a distinctly cartoonish look: Battlefield Heroes. The only details so far arrive in the form of that content-free website, the press release reproduced after the jump, and this (annoyingly registration-hungry) New York Times article on the unique appeal of the free-to-play games model.

Some thoughts and things after the click.

Well, we knew DICE had another game in the works, and I guess it should be no surprise that EA connected the dots and put together the appeal of what Valve did with Team Fortress 2 with what DICE have been pedaling so peerlessly with the Battlefield series. Not only that but the biggest games company in the world have finally plugged themselves directly into one of the most interesting ideas in PC gaming today: free gaming, with a touch of optional transactions. EA are intending to use the online shooter as a platform for advertising, and also allowing us to engage in “micro-transactions” (I hate that, it’s still money, even if it is a small amount) which will probably follow the Korean model of being able to buy power ups and time-limited items for use in the game world. (Although this report suggests that money will pay for cosmetic customisation options.)

I can’t see DICE screwing this up, either. The Battlefield games (especially Battlefield 2) were remarkably ambitious achievements and I think their occasional rough edges are just a testament to how much the Swedish team took on. They’re going to be able to access EA’s deep pockets for this next one, and, with “casual” being the intended audience we could end up with one of the most interesting games of the next couple of years. It’s perhaps worth mentioning, however, that Valve made the character-design hilarity of TF2 look easy. And easy, it ain’t…

That EA lowdown in full:

BATTLEFIELD HEROES LEADS THE WAY FOR EA’S NEW ‘PLAY 4 FREE’ BUSINESS MODEL
Unique Cartoon Shooter Introduces a New Way to Play Battlefield

Chertsey, UK January 21, 2008 – At the Digital, Life, Design Conference (DLD) in Munich, Electronic Arts Inc., (NASDAQ: ERTS) today unveiled Battlefield Heroes™, an all-new Play 4 Free cartoon-style shooter that will bring classic Battlefield gameplay to an all new mass audience. Available for download at www.battlefield-heroes.com this summer, Battlefield Heroes is EA’s first title that is offered completely for free, and features a built-in matchmaking system to ensure that players of equal skill are paired together for fair play. Developed by DICE in Stockholm, Battlefield Heroes is leading EA’s new web-focused free to download, free to play business model which generates revenue through advertising and micro-transactions. With zero barriers to entry, now anyone can be a hero on the battlefield!

“Online gaming garners a massive audience,” said Gerhard Florin, EVP Publishing Americas-Europe at EA. “People want to play games in new ways, with easier access that is quick to the fun. With Battlefield Heroes, EA brings its first major franchise to North America and Europe with a new distribution model and pricing structure adapted to the evolving way that people play.”

Battlefield Heroes is a brand new game from the team behind Battlefield 1942™ and Battlefield 2™. It’s fun cartoon-style graphics and gameplay caters to players of all skill levels. It is easy to pick up and play but with robust character customization and a deep online meta-game, gamers can spend hours building up their characters and conquering the world.

“We put a different twist on this Battlefield game going with the cartoon-style graphics and gameplay,” added Ben Cousins, Senior Producer at EA DICE. “There’s something here for all types of players — be it our core Battlefield fans or casual gamers. With the new online model, we will continually add new content to keep the game fresh and keep players engaged, while integrating player feedback in real time. As a game developer, it is such a cool new way to make games.”

Battlefield Heroes will be released for the PC as a free download in summer 2008. This product is not yet rated by PEGI or ESRB. For more information on EA DICE, please visit www.dice.se or www.ea.com.

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50 Comments »

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  1. Butler says:

    It’s going to be interesting; if only from a free-to-play, mass market, expanding the industry POV.

    Other than that I can see it being quite unremarkable.

  2. Evo says:

    I think this is a good move. While they may be riding on the coat-tails of TF2,including advertising and ‘micro-transactions’ a promise of being ‘easy to pick up and play’ and free to play is enticing.

    If this is the beginning of a concerted effort by EA to be innovative and offer us PC gamers something new then I am in full support. If the advertising and micro-transactions dominate everything and it plays poorly then I won’t be so appreciative.

    However I am starting to really get into the casual gaming, and if as they promise it is easy to get into then I will most definately check it out.

  3. simbo says:

    Note BBC News’s article here: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/technology/7199881.stm, which states…

    “Gamers will be able to buy items which customise their appearance in the world, but will not be able to seek an advantage through buying weapons.”

  4. Jim Rossignol says:

    That’s interesting. Kart Racer and Maple Story give you micro-payment options that have some influence in the game world, and they made a packet. Will gamers really want to fork out money for purely cosmetic additions? I’m not so sure.

  5. Evo says:

    “They wouldn’t work inside the fictional world. Instead, adverts will appear on the website and the ‘front-end’ of the game.”

    Also taken from the BBC article. They do that and I will definately play it, keeping the Ads out of the game itself is a good plan.

  6. Edge says:

    They (EA) already have in-game advertising in BF2 and (more so) in BF2142 – it’s not intrusive and, to be honest, completely ignorable when there are several Tanks/APCs hooning towards you intent on blowing you into next week.

    It’ll be a shame if they out and out copy the TF2 formula, but then that’s what’s been happening for nigh-on the last decade: –

    “Game developer comes up with a new idea -> World + Dog attempts their own take; just different enough from the original to not get their asses sued out of existence.”

    I shall be watching that heroes website with interest over the next few months…

  7. Monkfish says:

    While my initial reaction was something along the lines of “OMG TF2 ripoff!”, I’ve actually warmed to the idea.

    One thing that will be interesting to see is how the prospect of cartoony violence with vehicles pans out. That’ll certainly set it apart from TF2.

  8. dr_demento says:

    The ingame adverts in Rainbow Six Vegas only add something (especially when you peer over a sofa and see the eyes from a No Country For Old Men poster looking straight at you).

    The bit which really interests me is the suggestion this would work “on Grandma’s laptop”. Finally, a low-spec Battlefield game!

  9. Kieron Gillen says:

    I’d like for EA to stay away from my Gran’s lap.

    KG

  10. Ben Hazell says:

    If it’s WW2, I can’t wait to see the Cartoon Nazis they want people to play as…

  11. Alan Au says:

    Psst! When the NYT registration system complains, I’ve been feeding it gamers/gamers.

  12. Alan Au says:

    Also, I’m curious about the conflicting reports about what “upgrades” can be purchased. I’m all for customization, but anything buyable that actually improves performance is akin to inviting a hardcore elite that shuts out casual and new players.

  13. Iain says:

    That lantern-jawed soldier looks nothing like a Team Fortress 2 reject at all… if it were anyone other than EA, I suspect Valve would be sharpening the lawyer-knives as I type. I really enjoyed Battlefield 2, but I can’t see myself playing this, personally.

    @Kieron:

    I’d like to test that claim and see this run on my gran’s laptop. She’s been dead fifteen years…

  14. Brent says:

    If the the game takes off with the clans as the other MP games have, I could see coughing up some micro-money for a clan-specific color scheme or custom logo. This is where they might rake in some revenue…

  15. Jachap says:

    If the in-game adverts are of current products but their design is deliberately WW2 retro billboard style, they might even add to the comedy.

  16. Man Raised By Puffins says:

    The ingame adverts in Rainbow Six Vegas only add something (especially when you peer over a sofa and see the eyes from a No Country For Old Men poster looking straight at you).

    Although they can get somewhat incongruous when some ‘Join the Royal Navy’ adverts on a bright white background pop up.

    @Monkfish: Those are almost my sentiments exactly. Hopefully they’ll also pick up from TF2 that it’s good to build up a distinctive style from the ground up, rather than shamelessly copy.

  17. Satsuz says:

    They’re probably still working out what upgrades will do for themselves. It’s a tricky issue. They don’t want to ruin the free-to-play experience by reducing those players to 2nd-class fighters when compared to the deep-pocketed elite. But they also would like for there to be incentive to purchase these upgrades, and improved performance is certainly an incentive.

    From what I know or have read about this business model, the best compromise is to have purchased items represent status and be sufficiently envy-worthy, without having any (or very little) gameplay advantage. That’s much easier said than done, of course.

  18. Zeno, Internetographer says:

    No, fuck microtransactions.

    They won’t make it a purely cosmetic thing, because they can get a hell of a lot more people buying it if it gives them a gameplay advantage. Which will turn the game into total bullshit.

    Also, if I’m going to have to pay anyway to remain competitive, I’d rather just spend the money to buy some game that doesn’t have this stupid system.

    Honestly, why would they want to copy the Koreans?

  19. Lunaran says:

    Valve’s brick-and-mortar publishing deal is with EA. Has EA decided they can make more aping Valve than distributing for them?

    Valve don’t have to be sharpening the lawyer knives, but I wonder how they’re reacting to this?

  20. Hieremias says:

    I really doubt there’ll be a lawsuit here. You can’t put a copyright on “cartoony style soldiers”. We see blatant rip-offs all the time in games, music, and film.

  21. DigitalSignalX says:

    My first impression was EA + Free = Wild Ass Laughter. It’s just.. alien and seemingly against their money devouring grain.

    F2P games can be great, but the ones I’ve tried inevitably develop a large asshat population within months that a subscribtion weeds out to some degree. If EA can pull it off, it will make things interesting for Steam perhaps.

  22. Turin Turambar says:

    “My first impression was EA + Free = Wild Ass Laughter. It’s just.. alien and seemingly against their money devouring grain.”

    Yeah, just wait to buy perks and gear and weapons with microtransactions. This is following the asian model, so there will be equipment to buy that affects the gameplay.

  23. Daniel Puzey says:

    For anyone who hasn’t seen it before, try http://www.bugmenot.com for helpful registration info…

    http://www.bugmenot.com/view/www.nytimes.com

  24. Mike says:

    I think calling it ‘unique’ is a bit much, but as long as it isn’t a replacement for a proper BF1943 I’ll be happy. I like the idea of ad-supported gaming. This could be a big step.

  25. essell says:

    “Honestly, why would they want to copy the Koreans?”

    Err… because they’re making silly amounts of money?

  26. SwiftRanger says:

    Rest of the world =/= Korean/Chinese (well euh… not yet).

    Sounds good enough if the micro-transactions are indeed limited to visual fluff and if the cartoon look doesn’t mean it’s just gonna be a TF2 clone in terms of game mechanics, it should be a real Battlefield game.

    Still wondering if that Battlefield 3 doc was for real though.

  27. Zeh says:

    This could be good – a step in a new, bright direction – but it could also be catastrophic – if EA decides that the moneyhats they could make out of selling weapon/armor/class upgrades are more important than balancing it out. If so, this is a game I’d steer away from without even thinking twice, even though I’ve bought all other BF games… I play online for fun, not to see who has the biggest micropayment-supported e-penis.

    id Software has also announced free-to-play/ad-supported strategy for Quake Zero. We’ll probably start seeing more of this.

  28. Mo says:

    Looking forward to seeing how this turns out. I’m glad EA went off and did The Right Thing(s): no ingame advertising, microtransactions don’t give you an advantage.

    The whole microtransaction model is simple: get 95% of the players to play for free, and 5% to pay up. It’s in their best interests to do that because if it was >5%, the microtransaction purchasers wouldn’t feel “special” anymore, and would therefore devalue the items they buy.

    As a computer scientist, I really want to see how their engine turns out. I’d love to see software render support. It would be hilarious if the people who’s skills were deemed “useless” (ie: software render devs) suddenly came back into demand.

    Gameplay wise, I really love it when devs try to make games accessible, because they end up being the games I love playing anyway. Anything more complicated than q3a is a bit much for me. :)

    Speaking of which, Battlefield Heroes is awesome news, but I’m far more excited about Quake Zero.

  29. Pete says:

    While “they’re copying TF2″ is the most obvious conclusion to draw I’ve got to say it’s a pretty simplistic one and frankly a lot to draw from a single piece of character art.

    This game has been in development for a while now and it’s an insult to the artists in particular to assume they’re that uncreative. In this industry it seems that gamer’s conclusions about development are, frankly, wrong. Wait until you’ve been there first.

  30. NewName says:

    Never underestimate the vanity of gamers.

  31. mister slim says:

    The art style looks more like Battalion Wars to me.

  32. Rich Powers says:

    You’re not giving TF2 near enough credit if you only focus on the graphics. While the character and level designs were certainly innovative for a genre best known for an endless deluge of camo and fatigues graphics, it’s the gameplay, class differentiation, and balance that makes TF2 truly great.

    Of course most gamers know this, but discussion about this new Battlefield title on many sites focuses on “OMG TF2 GRAPHICS COPYCATS!!1″

    Seeing that Battlefield 1942 is the only game in the series I enjoy (BF2 can’t hold a candle to Desert Combat AND runs like ass), I eagerly await this installation. No in-game ads is also welcomed news.

    And I agree mister: the first thing I thought of was Battalion Wars/Advanced Wars when seeing that preview image.

  33. TychoCelchuuu says:

    This is even more ironic, considering that TF2’s original modern warfare + commander theme is what BF2 ripped off in the first place.

    Not that it matters, IMHO. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, and even DICE needs to earn money somehow.

  34. Perko says:

    Dear RPS crew, in the future you can use the New York Times Link Generator to generate NYT links that don’t require registration.

  35. AbyssUK says:

    This could be the codename eagle 2 I’ve been waiting for!

  36. James says:

    The adverts? Easy. Never noticed them before, I doubt I’d notice them here. The push towards play for free is a great direction as far as I’m concerned. But micropayments? They always make me edgy. If they stick to their guns and keep the bonuses purely cosmetic (Hah!), then I’m all for it. But I’m certainly not the only one who thinks that the chances of that happening are laughably low.

  37. Garth says:

    EA is so moronically heavy handed with Micro Transactions it won’t be anything like Maple Story, etc. It’ll be like “Want this gun that’s better than all the other guns? Pay us 20 bucks!”

  38. Mo says:

    “Gamers in being cynical towards EA shocker!”

    This is getting silly now. Everyone keeps bitching about how EA is this terrible company, but when they go off and do something interesting, the bitching doesn’t cease. Fucked if they do, fucked if they don’t.

    Let’s give them the benefit of the doubt, shall we? I reckon they’ll stick to their guns.

  39. Rich Powers says:

    I’ve earned the right to view EA with a healthy dose of cynicism. In just the last year: releasing the horrible abomination that is SimCity Societies, failing to provide another patch for C&C: The First Decade (a buggy mess that requires third party patches to make it work correctly), and failing to optimize both BF2 and BF2142 after several years.

    To be sure, I’m excited about this new BF title, but I wouldn’t put it past the money grubbers to charge $5-10 for the “real” weapons and power-ups. Maybe I’m just old-school, but I trust very few companies to successful implement alternative pay styles such as microtransactions and episodic content.

  40. poullos says:

    I don’t think they are ripping-off anyone. Valve did the mistake and released some later abandoned ideas about the early TF 2 game-style. Dice liked the concept and came with BF 1942. Now, copying TF 2’s pixar, it’s not something to blame them since it seems they welcome it as a good alternative to the real-world-crysis-like demanding graphics. And believe it, there are a lot of folks out there still playing on their ‘grandmas pcs’.

    Of course it all depends to EA if it can successfully pull another 1942. Personally, I have little hope on something given free because nothing can guarantee a successful after ‘sale’ support. Besides, EA has the name being one if not the biggest milk cow hunting publishers rather than a lifetime supporter.

    One thing I’m not sure of however is if the game will adopt TF 2’s comic style. I don’t know if this can be applied in a BF series game but TF 2 showed us how great a game becomes with this. At least I hope they copy the silhouette customization between different classes.

  41. Mr. Softpants says:

    What boggles my mind is people who actually “buy” EA games. Like those crazy stories of people who buy porn.